One of things that causes me anxiety, as an educator, is when I get a note from the assistant principal requesting that I call a parent. It’s a roll of the dice as to if I’m going to be accused of not doing enough, or recruited to do more. I fear the overly protective parent as much as I do an absentee one.
I have this student, who has already checked out and couldn’t give a shit about school let alone the 5 Pillars of Islam. She is quiet and calculated in what she says, if she chooses to say it, and randomly participates based on whether I circulate around the room or make my presence known through piercing eye contact. Additionally, she has an extremely absurd addiction to her cell phone like most her peers, and uses it in class as she sees fit – because you know there’s nothing more important than saying that you are bored in class and that school sucks. For some reason, that is worth conveying only with a higher dose of profanity and more misspellings. She’s failing my class and I write her up frequently; I don’t even tell her anymore.
Hence the call…
Again, I work with a population that is split between Native Americans and Hispanics. I work hard to dispel myths and stereotypes across the board, across cultures. But, yesterday it happened where it was served up without subtlety. I gave myself an internal pep talk and dialed the number, secretly hoping it would be disconnected and I could avoid the neurosis from the other end. Alas, someone answered, but it was not a voice at first it was the discordant blare of disillusionment, arcade sound effects, bells, and the droop of failure. I had already said hello twice and was waiting, impatiently to start the conversation. She finally responded, her voice came through, but was trailed by the murmur of indistinguishable conversation and white noise. She seemed distracted by what I can assume was the lure of a big pay off, exaggerated animations, and flashing lights drawing her in with their hypnotic, pulsating power . It was evident she was at the casino, not 4 miles away. I asked her if it was a bad time to talk to her about her daughter to which she replied “yes.” She asked me if could call back in an hour, I said “no, I’ll be out of the classroom.” I called her back today, and she was drunk, not even 12 pm.
Yep, stereotype confirmed.
She then asked me how to be a parent…
Saturday, I went out to shake it up, work it out, break it down – one of my favorite bands was in town to be the muse I needed to move and be moved. It was also one of the first times that I didn’t care if I was alone or not; I freed myself from the awkwardness that usually escorts me into a bar. Usually I go out by myself, even when in relationships, but for some reason I would be low on confidence and waiting for someone I might know to let me off the hook.
I felt like I did when I was traveling more, in my 20s. And, this band brought back some of emotion of when I first arrived to this state, when things were fresh and new. At time for exploration and meeting new people, getting into the mix. They played their standards this time instead of what had evolved over the 9 years since the band emerged on the scene. It did not disappoint.
I pretty much ignored the crowd except when it was a must to say hello to an acquaintance, or order a beer. I had some brave souls try to engage, but I wasn’t there for that. I stayed to close down the bar, to the very end. Sweaty and bar grimy.
I look in the fridge and all I can see is a warehouse of recycled, relabeled containers with contents of edibles that have since mutated and morphed into the next cure for some debilitating, flesh eating disease, perhaps even cancer. Maybe I should really be reaching out to NIH instead of getting out my mental eight ball in deciding whether it’s safe to shove it down my gullet. It’s a roulette that can only be outed by an ultra keen sense of smell in that split second moment where you are caught in that blissful scavenge at midnight wanting a quick fix, a snack. You weigh out the risks, you ask yourself, “is this on the edge; can it be salvaged if I heat it; am I that hungry to throw caution to the wind and dive into salmonella?” After pulling out the bloated soy milk box and unsurprisingly finding it curdled, I decide that nothing in their fridge is worth turning my digestive system into a laboratory for a bacterial cesspool party. I’m also pretty sure that in the 1 1/2 years that I have been watching their place that those relics have not been assessed for their combustible capability in well over 5 years. It might as well be a Superfund site.
I close the fridge door in dismay and look to the freezer to redeem me in my moment of need. All I can think of when I peruse the selection of frosted Tupperware and Ziploc bags of tamales and indistinguishable meat items is that I will have to go the extra mile in heating up this food which might be pegged for a special occasion or will not be as good as I hope. A heavy sigh and a audible groan is all I can manage realizing that I might have to settle for a spoonful of almond butter and some dried out carrots.
I’ll show you, I’ll make something with an obscene amount of dairy and fruit and leave it to ferment in your oven that you never use…back to bed it is…
I’m half watching the Trail of the Pink Panther and half sucked into trolling for random music videos on YouTube in an effort to go beyond the definition of procrastination. I would rather indulge in some of the worst music to come out of the late 80’s and early 90’s than achieve any type of productivity that has to do with my work. Somehow watching the band members of Warrant and Winger flip their giant, over-teased hair, hump guitars, and profess their love to under-age girls is more productive than modifying lesson plans; an exercise in futility at best for reticent and demotivated youth.
Last week, the school district came up with this plan of attack for remedying the severe lack of parental involvement, high student absenteeism, and chronic educational disenfranchisement in Native American communities. This brilliant game plan involved busing faculty up to their communities over the course of two days. Not only did they not want us there, but the overall tenor of the faculty was one of acridity and disdain. One student had passed on to a teacher that some parents were making a point to not go, seeing it as tool for intimidation. Teachers, saw it as a waste of time and just one more way to enable parents, in addition to the regular placation due to the money the district gets for each child. I would have preferred a stomach virus and an un-sedated root canal instead of the queasiness of the bus ride.
The silence and neglect within dilapidated and depressed Native communities was like a soundtrack that would play over and over in my thoughts as I met with each parent, even after I left. The broken out windows of sagging trailers, smoke tatooed hornos, lonely front yards, and seemingly empty stores was just a metaphor for the lack of hope and surrender. It felt wrong, I felt wrong; I hated my job and the administration for the setup. I didn’t feel as if I was helping, as if my support and recommendations were hollow; it had been heard before from some teacher before me and likely one that would come after.
I felt my whiteness that day.
So, now it’s about endurance and going back to the source of why I thought teaching was such a great idea. It’s as if I have to embark on this great journey to survive a modern day Odyssey; a gauntlet.
May seems light years away.